There was a time when ESG copywriting and sustainability reports routinely indulged in spin, whether overtly or implicitly. Either they embellished the green credentials of an investment fund, or they reported on the environmental improvements at a company’s factories while ignoring the far bigger impact of its products.
As a copywriter, I must confess I was complicit (although we never worked for fossil fuel companies). My view was not just that I must do as my clients ask, but also this was progress of sorts – even if it didn’t tell the full story.
Yet 2022 seems to be the year when such greenwashing will disappear.https://www.ft.com/content/f90562d6-6673-457a-901e-257eb4578d98 The use of marketing spin to present products as greener is coming under intense scrutiny. New regulations and standards will intensify that.
What are the catalysts? The International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation in London is developing standards on how companies listed on stock exchanges should disclose climate-related risks from their operations.https://www.ifrs.org/ The EU’s rules requiring asset managers to disclose how they take climate issues into account are also expected in 2022. And corporate disclosure requirements by regulators in America, Singapore and even China are expected shortly.
Finally, the Science Based Targets initiative, a voluntary project organised by several environmental and international organisations including the UN, is putting companies under pressure to make verifiable commitments to net-zero carbon emissions that are consistent with the Paris agreement’s climate goals.https://sciencebasedtargets.org/
Just like any period of intense change, this presents opportunities for the forward-looking. Those financial firms that have invested over the past few years in developing investment processes that genuinely focus on investing in companies with small and shrinking environmental footprints, or in businesses at the forefront of decarbonising the economy, have something to shout about.French bank: Sustainability copywriting – from green aircraft to sustainable Russian mining
With money pouring into ESG funds, their foresight (whisper it quietly but possibly idealism) will be rewarded. As genuine thought leaders, they can write papers indicating the way forward for asset management at a time when sustainability is joining investment performance as a metric of success. There may also be a case for revealing the ESG illusion of some passive funds.
Turning to sustainability reporting, corporate disclosure requirements and investor scrutiny mean everything must be revealed. Managements in every sector – from oil and gas, to finance, to fashion – are having to rise to the occasion.
Well-crafted narratives can relate their strategies and how they are delivering against them. Clear story-telling, devoid of spin, make a difference.
The time for greenwashing is over. If nothing else, COP 26 showed the urgent need to go beyond rhetoric and act. What business does between now and 2030 will helps to determine the future path of climate change.
Actions will speak louder than words. But there will still be a place for truthful words.